Here’s my take on some of the questions that I’ve heard as I’ve attended Sunday school classes and meetings sponsored by our reconciling committee at University UMC. I welcome your feedback!
Won’t we lose people at UUMC, particularly young people, if we become affiliated with RMN (Reconciling Ministries Network)?
Any time the church takes a stand on a hot button issue, there will be fallout. For years, University UMC has been openly and actively welcoming toward the GLBT community in worship, classes and leadership. I’m sure this has turned some folks away. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Jesus did not call us to a popularity contest. We’re called to live out the gospel, and we’re warned by Jesus himself that when we do that, there may be folks who walk away.
Last year, a kind of futures committee (change committee) at UUMC identified attracting and involving young people and young families in the life of the congregation as a key goal. As I’ve interviewed young adults and families in our congregation and those who’ve arrived recently as visitors, I’m finding a constant. Young people (20s and 30s) who come our way are here because we are a progressive, inclusive congregation. Several young people have said that we are far more likely to lose young people if we are not perceived as open and welcoming toward gays and lesbians. Last week, in fact, we had seven people join the church, and most of them were inspired to join because of our stance for social justice and our move toward affiliation with the reconciling network of churches.
What are the implications for our congregation if we affiliate with Reconciling Ministries Network?
By joining RMN, we would become part of a network of churches that are working for full equality in membership, marriage and ordination for all of God’s people. (Actually, there are several other guiding principles for RMN—their website, rmnetwork.org, is worth checking out.) This does not mean that UUMC would conduct same sex unions, nor does it mean that UUMC’s pastors would be participating in the ordination of gay clergy. Those are entirely separate issues that are not related to or implied by joining RMN. We hope and pray for that day to come and we commit ourselves to work for change and transformation within our church structures. By joining RMN, we’re publically committing ourselves to working for justice with and for the LGBT community. That may not seem like much, but it’s a key difference. What was once simply assumed would now, upon affiliating with RMN, become an open and intentional commitment from this day forward for our entire congregation and its mission and ministry.
Further, we hope that our joining RMN would be a great encouragement to other classes, groups and congregations within the greater church who may be pondering taking a public stand on their commitment to the LGBT community. It would be natural for our church to take leadership in the conference and the denomination on this issue.
Finally, one of the cool things about the reconciling movement is that it is ecumenical. We’re not just about United Methodists reconciling, but we join with a whole host of Christian denominations who have taken a public stance of openness and affirmation toward gays and lesbians.
Check out Joshunda Sanders’ blog, http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/faith/entries/2011/02/03/university_united_methodist_ch.html . Joshunda is the religion editor at the Austin American-Statesman and she’s written a piece on our conversation toward a vote about affiliation with RMN. You may have noticed Joshunda in attendance this past weekend at UUMC, working on the issue of reconciling and a story about John Arndt, whose band Gungor was recently nominated for a Grammy!
So, where do you stand on joining the reconciling network? (I promise, I’m not making a commission!)